Louisville Card File: Notre Dame

As a former local college coach walked out of the Yum! yesterday with a few seconds to go in the second OT and Louisville’s L assured, he turned to me an said, “There’s something wrong with this team.”

After the game, I received a text from Dr. Professor, with whom I’ve been cheering on the Cards since high school. It read, “This game brings back memories of Towson State.” (For those who don’t recall what many consider the nadir of the U of L basketball tradition, on January 30, ’95, the Cards lost to the Maryland school, then a low mid major, if that, 69-81.)

I’m not sure it was quite that bad, but . . .

So the question at this juncture is whether to now break down Louisville’s disturbing performance yesterday, or to take a look at the big picture, and ask: Why, at this juncture of Rick Pitino’s career, is he mentoring such a wobbly Cardinal Squad?

Or, to paraphrase a question Dr. Professor and I often ask, “Shouldn’t a coach making that much money, a coach who is always talking about rebranding the Cardinals as if they are some box of cereal, be putting a better product on the court?” (According to several reliable sources, Pitino “earned” $7.5 million last year. Which figure includes a periodic bonus he gets just for staying here.)

As I wrote several times, that “glossy” 12-0 record the team had a couple of weeks ago was a mirage, a false positive.

* * * * *

Before I go further, let me make something clear. I’m not dissing this group of players.

As best I can tell, they’re good kids. They study. They don’t get in any trouble. There are no “bad apples.”

It looks as if they give it their all on the court.

And I won’t break down the perceived flaws in their games. It wouldn’t be fair. The players that have it all are few and far between.

I will ask however, how come the splendidly salaried Coach Pitino hasn’t been able to recruit more of those upper echelon ballers?

I will ask how come at this late juncture in his tenure Coach Pitino has assembled a staff of assistants that includes no old wise heads, a first assistant who is there thanks to nepotism, and two new fellows to whom I’ve never seen Pitino utter one word. Where have you gone Mick Cronin, Kevin Willard, Ralph Willard?

* * * * *

Have you read this all before in this space?

Yes, it is the same old song.

In my opinion, it is the current storyline of U of L basketball, and I’m sticking to it.

* * * * *

Two league losses at home after two league games played at home.

Am I the only one who would take a .500 record in the Big East now and call it a season?

Am I the only one who believes a dreaded #8/#9 NCAA seed is clearly a possibility? Or, even the unfathomable, an opening round game in the Yum! in that other tournament?

* * * * *

Are there any positives to be gleaned from yesterday’s performance?

Yes. Nobody was injured.

Okay, Chane Behanan began to play again with some ferocity.

Kyle Kuric had 17 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, a blocked shot and no turnovers. But he only had 5 (five) field goal attempts.

I won’t get into the disheartening stats. Okay, just one. 18 turnovers against a team that didn’t press, against only 9 assists.

What I must mention is that everybody in the free world, and that includes Mike Brey and his players, knew exactly what Louisville was going to do at the end of regulation and the overtimes. Notre Dame was ready and in position. U of L either had no options, or chose not to use them.

* * * * *

Sigh. I love the Cardinals. But, as you can tell, I’m a might distraught about this teams’s prospects right now. I pray I’m wrong.

– Seedy K

20 Comments

  1. Disillusioned Card Fan
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I totally agree. PItino draws a big salary, but what has he done to deserve it? Nothing I can think of. We all know that Tom will do nothing about changing things until the fans withhold their cash, I am about ready to do that. We pay BIG BUCKS for our seats in the Yum Center, we deserve more than what Pitino is giving us….. We are his Karen Syphers….

  2. cbcard
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Another disturbing sign is the list in the CJ the other day of former Cards and Cats in the NBA. We are totally deficient in top level talent and have been for years. Our best go to guy in several was Preston and as much as I like him, he is not NBA talent.

  3. Seedy K
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    If there are other fans out there with an opinion on Rick Pitino tenure at U of L and current state of program, please weigh in.

  4. gnash001
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Regarding your comments from Friday Follies. When a team has to rely on one player to come in and provide the instant offense, what to they do when he has an off day?

    Also, after yesterday, one has to wonder why it’s necessary to play KK the entire game. IMHO, he’s the biggest impact player on the team, more so than RS. What’s going to happen when he gets hurt?

  5. cbcard
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Let me post twice. Al McGuire said “You can’t coach tall.” The same thing applies to talent on a roster. You either have good talent or you don’t. We have a great bunch of role players. The lack of NBA talent is on Pitino and no one else. He is getting his head handed to him on the recruiting trail.

    The same thing happened to Denny who may well have been the best bench / game coach ever. But he was lacking as a recruiter. Bill Olsen and Wade Houston brought in the talent. When first Bill became AD and then Wade left for UT, it was the beginning of the end for Denny.

    I wonder how far along that trail it is for the Rickster.

  6. J J
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    My comment on Pitino’s tenure: Is it 2017 yet?

  7. fred
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    There IS something wrong but I don’t know what it is either. I watched IU today. They have a movement and fluidity to their offense we just don’t have. They move the ball around quickly. They take shots. We go inside-outside except we don’t have an outside game.So we end up trying to force layups and shots we can’t make. Everyone in America knows that Siva is going to drive to the basketb every chance he gets. Has anyone noticed how much separation that creates. Yet he did not take ONE three in the ND game. We pump fake, then we drive but there’s nowhere to go when the zone collapses and no one to make (or take) the perimeter shot. Shoot the ball. We took something like 12 shots fewer than ND. Your man is correct: there is something wrong. But, IMHO, we have talent. We have as much talent at IU. I don’t think the problem is in the ingredients. I think the problem is in the recipe.

  8. bob
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I feel sorry for the young men playing for this guy. Siva has been here three years and has had “individual coaching” for two hours per practice day ( as per Pitino ). A 7th grade players at Holy Trinity can shoot a pull up jump shot.
    Does anyone believe that Notre Dame has better athletics than Louisville and that is why they can make free thrown and we struggle.
    We play a slower smaller team then us and we play a zone defense.
    When a team like ND is a good free throw shooting team it makes a lot of good sense to foul them 40 feet from the basket and put them in a bonus.
    It is very clear $3.8 million is not enough.

  9. cbcard
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    If you would like to see a beautiful offense just go to Knight’s Hall and watch Bellarmine. They get it.

  10. Mark Hanley
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    “……….do you,……Mr. Jones…..”…ah..Highway 61…….”The Ballad of a Thin Coach”……hey,I’d be alright with CRP,if,in fact I could see where the room for improvement is located……..not with the coaching staff,not with the bench players….hell the starters don’t offer much hope…….but I’m like you……I hope for the best and pray for better things(my favorite R.Davies song,by the way….no wait that might be where have all the good times gone……which may be a better decription of this current,putrid mess)…GO CARDS….GO KROGERING…….

  11. Henry County
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Every fan wants his team to be the champion. Just about every team falls short of that goal. The YUMMY center and John Wooden wouldn’t just be an undeniable recipe for championship. Since ’86, we’ve held out hope each year, knowing it was someone else’s year.
    It seems as silly to me to blame Pitino as to blame Siva as to blame Troy Jackson or Beau Zach Smith.
    There is an awful lot of season left, good or bad. An unnecessary time to mourn. Wait til the NIT.
    If this team had hit a few more threes, a few more free throws and was undefeated, would you say Pitino was worth $5 million a year?

  12. Seedy K
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    To Henry County: No, Pitino wouldn’t be worthh $5 mill/ year if he’d won 5 championships here. And he’s certainly not worth $3.5 mill/ year + bonuses now for his consistent underperformance.

  13. Henry County
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Agreed.

  14. doug
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    As a season ticket holder for over 30 years, I try not to overreact to low moments. Denny made a fool of me too many times after an ugly game.
    Taking a big picture 10 year look back at the Pitino era, I’ll give him a grade of C. I clearly remember a conversation with my son when RP was hired. We expected a couple of Final 4′s and a Championship within 10 years. Based on stature of our program, salary, facilities,…………I do not think expectations were unrealistic.
    Question next asked is….who better? Answer is difficult given tendencies to favor “flavor of the month.”(How is Jay Wright doing this year?)

  15. Seedy K
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Pitino’s hiring was indeed a devil’s bargain. Though a reasonable choice, the “right choice” at the time, somebody who would hold onto the program’s stature. 

    Given our facilities, fan support, tradition — and his absurd salary — he has woefully underperformed.

    There is always a next guy. Good coaching didn’t end with the retirement of Adolph Rupp and John Wooden. I do trust that Tom Jurich would make another “right choice”, which will either work out or not. His track record in hiring has few blemishes. 

    Flavor of Month: Kevin Willard. 

  16. cbcard
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    The Nova flavor has recently flamed out.

    I at one point thought Sean Miller could be a new flavor but he seems to have problems holding on to players so……

  17. fred
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Bozich astutely observed that UConn lost nine Big East games last season and then won the national championship. He forget to mention Kemba Walker, but it’s worth noting .

  18. Seedy K
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    The only guy who even remotely resembles Kemba Walker on this team in Russ Smith. If he leads U of L to the national title this season, I will sauté and eat my new retro dunking Cardinal t-shirt.

  19. Phil
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m hopeful we can lure Donovan in a few years. Most people’s response is: “He turned down UK. Why would he come here?” Well, if he left FL for UK, he’d still be coaching in the SEC. He has roots in the Big East. Also, there is the Richard Pitino coonnection.
    Other than that, I’ve mentioned before Pitino’s micro-management, particularly at the guard position. With the limited offense this year, he is FORCED to give Russ a loose leash (to a certain extent). The question is, which statement is true: Russ Smith is good for Pitino or Pitino is good for Russ Smith?

  20. will hall
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    What Pitino has done while at Louisville is disgraceful. His “10 second” affair at a local restaurant was the most national press UofL has gotten over the past 5 years. His first round loss to Morehead State showed how well he could prepare and coach. The games I’ve seen on TV will not draw big time recruits. I know Tom Jurich is loyal to Rick, but I’ll bet he’s thinking what the hell is going on. Rick is not getting it done….time for a reload.

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